Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

The way I see it, there are two ways to judge a movie:

It can be either empirically good or bad (The Shawshank Redemption or, say, Glitter) or it can be good or bad with qualifications (like taking the target audience into account or whether or not it’s a ‘summer flick’).

Percy Jackson and the Really Long Movie Title is good. It’s not Citizen Kane good, but it’s actually better than you would think, and that’s only mildly taking into account the fact that the target audience is teenage boys and girls.

Based on the first in the series of books by Rick Riordan, it tells the tale of Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), who, it turns out, is the offspring of god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and human Sally (Catherine Keener). Understandably this revelation comes as a bit of a shock to Percy, who, at the same time, also finds out his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is a half-man/half-goat satyr.

Just as all that news is sinking in, mommy is kidnapped by Hades, which forces Percy to take it upon himself and go to hell (hey, it’s what he does!) to get her back. All of that would ordinarily be enough for the average demi-god teenager, but Percy is also saddled with keeping the gods from starting a war with each other after he’s accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt.

Joining him in his quest to the Underworld are both Grover and the resident comely warrior Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), who, incidentally, should have quite a nice movie career ahead of her.

Things get going rather quickly, and they don’t let up. Percy is full of action and pretty snazzy special effects, including the snake-ridden hair of Medusa (Uma Thurman). The script could’ve very easily become a quagmire of cheesiness by someone trying too hard to be hip with today’s kids, but screenwriter Craig Titley managed to avoid that pitfall and even toss in quite a few very funny one-liners.

There are a couple questions that beg answers, including why Percy was accused in the first place and why, when bad guys keep popping up around every bend, a coupla good guys couldn’t also find their way ’round to give our boy a hand, but overall it’s very entertaining, especially for what it is.

Directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire), Percy is obviously geared toward the younger crowd, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun for everyone. (Make sure you stick around for the credits.) And it will probably make you look forward to the sequel, rumored to be hitting the screen in early 2011.

(Hey, look at that– I didn’t mention that Harry Potter fella once.)

3.5/5 stars